Sunday, December 16, 2018

Newgarden Earns First Street Circuit Pole

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Roller-coaster weather conditions and a tight, daunting circuit created a major challenge during qualifying that was best handled by Josef Newgarden who extended his streak of front-row starts to four with his first pole on a temporary street circuit.

Round 1

Group 1

A spin for Ed Jones in the first half of the opening group of knockout qualifying caused a red flag and blocked the No. 10 NTT Data Honda from participating further in the session.

Ed Jones around Toronto turn in Ganassi Indy car
Ed Jones will start his 29th consecutive IndyCar race from last in the 23-car field. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

Jones’ 10 competitors in Group 1 continued to battle the wet track surface with Firestone’s rain tires after a light drizzle fell over Exhibition Place as qualifying began.

The second Chip Ganassi Racing entry ultimately reached the top of the running order at the hands of Scott Dixon. On his fifth lap of the 10-minute outing, Dixon turned a 1:12.7806 to gap Alexander Rossi by more than half a second.

Rookie Jordan King was nearly a second slower than Rossi but placed third ahead of Conor Daly, Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe who filled the rest of the top six to earn spots in Round 2. Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais and Rene Binder joined Jones in not advancing.

Group 2

Young drivers Spencer Pigot and Zachary Claman De Melo took to the track for qualifying with Firestone’s red-sidewalled alternate tires after the 11 drivers in Group 1 created dry lines around the street circuit.

These drivers owned the top two positions halfway through Group 2 but a 59.4840 lap from qualifying star Will Power put the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet ahead. Ryan Hunter-Reay was Power’s closest competitor but didn’t eclipse the Australian driver’s lap, relegating the No. 28 DHL Honda to the second position.

Simon Pagenaud, who earned the pole for last year’s Honda Indy Toronto, ended Group 2 in third, 0.1216 seconds off Power’s pace and a mere 0.0029 seconds back from Hunter-Reay.

Takuma Sato led Robert Wickens and Matheus Leist in punching the final three tickets to the second round of qualifying.

Not advancing to Round 2 were Marco Andretti, Pigot, Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Zach Veach and Claman De Melo.

Round 2

Despite the initial wet track conditions, Pagenaud’s former circuit record officially fell when the fastest 12 drivers from the opening round of qualifying returned to the track for Round 2.

It turned out that lapping faster than the track record was required to reach the Firestone Fast 6 as only the top half of the 12-car group slipped under the mark.

Power was the sixth-fastest Round 2 driver to avoid the cutoff on the strength of his 58.9073 lap — 0.0051 seconds under Pagenaud’s record that stood for one year.

Takuma Sato navigates Honda Indy circuit in Toronto
After showing speed in practice, Takuma Sato missed the Firestone Fast 6 and was unable to challenge for the pole. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

Dixon, meanwhile, topped Round 2 at 58.5546. Hunter-Reay was 0.0261 seconds off Dixon’s pace in second while Pagenaud was the top Chevrolet driver in the group a further 0.0201 seconds back.

Newgarden and Rossi occupied the two spots ahead of Power to form the rest of the group advancing to the final round of qualifying. Sato, King, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, Daly and Leist failed to reach the top six and will take the green flag from the seventh through 12th positions.

Firestone Fast 6

The rain returned as the all-important Firestone Fast 6 commenced but alternate Firestone rubber was the tool of choice for the fastest drivers up to this point.

Power and Dixon traded the fastest lap twice before final efforts were turned in around the tight circuit. Dixon returned to his pit box and Hunter-Reay aborted a fast lap while Newgarden pieced together a flyer that ultimately put the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion on top.

At 58.4956, Newgarden’s final lap was 0.4168 seconds clear of the previous record and ensured the American secured his sixth IndyCar pole and fourth of 2018. The feat was also Team Penske’s fourth consecutive pole and 262nd total in its 51st year of Indy car competition.

While Newgarden’s bonus point for winning the pole reduces Dixon’s advantage in the points to 32, the Ganassi pilot will look to grow the gap once again with a start from the outside of the front row on Sunday.

Penske drivers Pagenaud and Power will roll off from the second row while Andretti Autosport’s Rossi and Hunter-Reay will share Row 3.

A half-hour warm-up session beginning at 11:40 a.m. EDT Sunday will kick off race day before the 85-lap race goes green at 3:42 p.m with live television coverage on NBCSN.

Aaron Durant
Aaron Duranthttp://aarondurant.com
Aaron Durant leads The Apex as its editor-in-chief. When not bringing his racing journalism vision to life at The Apex, Durant enjoys snowboarding, playing the drums, reading and trudging through an endless queue of podcasts.

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